Wildcats Fall to Lady Vols in SEC Quarterfinals
May 12, 2011
OXFORD, Miss. - A pair of two-run innings propelled the No. 8 Tennessee Lady Vols past the 20th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats, 4-1 in the opening round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament Thursday afternoon in Oxford, Miss. The Wildcats stranded nine runners and never could get the offense rolling while falling to the No. 3 overall seed in the tournament. Sophomore Kara Dill charted a 3-for-4 day at the dish with an RBI and a first-inning triple.
Kentucky falls to 36-14 overall on the season while Tennessee improves to 45-10 on the year. UK will now seek a third consecutive at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament revealed Sunday night at 10 p.m. ET on ESPNU.
The Lady Vols notched a pair of two-run back-to-back innings in the third and fourth to capture a lead it would never relinquish. Kentucky had prime opportunities in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings but managed just one run while stranding six over the course of the frames including a bases-loaded inning in the fifth.
"We didn't do a very good job committing to driving the ball and we didn't make any adjustments," UK coach Rachel Lawson said. "When that happens and you're playing pitchers the caliber that they (Tennessee) have, they pick your hitters apart. Even though we were able to put some things together, we weren't really able to get that timely hit so that's going to be important moving forward."
The game opened with UK leaving a runner on third in the opening inning. Dill smacked a one-out triple that dipped over right fielder Kat Dotson's head. It marked Dill's third triple of the season and the second in two games.
Tennessee had an opportunity in the bottom of the first, but junior pitcher Chanda Bell and the Wildcats escaped the jam unscathed. Raven Chavanne opened the stanza by drawing a walk and Kelly Grieve reached by way of a bunt-single. Bell, however, induced three consecutive pop-ups to end the threat.
The Blue and White dropped in order in the top of the second, but UK's defense shined in the home half of the inning. Tennessee's Melissa Davin opened the inning with a single through the left side, but senior Samantha DeMartine charged on a bunt attempt and was able to snag the pop-up before whipping around to complete the double play by tossing to Jolly at first. A grounder to junior Brittany Cervantes at third was quickly corralled and the inning ended without allowing further damage.
Kentucky stranded two more runners in the top of the third without pushing across a run. Freshman Emily Jolly sent a one-out sizzler up the middle to place a runner aboard. Following a fly-out to right field, Dill generated her second hit of the game with a bloop-single into shallow left field. The inning, however, concluded with the runners still standing with a foul-fly out to left.
The Lady Vols plated a pair of scores in the bottom of the third to earn the 2-0 edge. Chavanne posted a one-out bunt single and then stole second to shift into scoring position. Grieve delivered an RBI single into right-center for the game's first tally. A bases-loaded floater fell into shallow right-center off the bat of Dotson to bring in the second tally of the inning.
UK suffered three consecutive outs in the top of the fourth, and Tennessee struck for two more runs in the home side of the stanza to capture a 4-0 edge. An error by the Wildcats enabled the inning to stay alive and the Lady Vols converted on UK's mistake with a two-run single by Chavanne.
Kentucky struck for a run in the top of the fifth to bridge the gap to 4-1. Sophomore Alice O'Brien and freshman Lauren Cumbess led off the stanza by drawing a pair of walks. Consecutive infield pop-ups placed two outs on the scoreboard. Dill then delivered her third hit of the game with a single through the right side to score O'Brien for the UK strike. Senior Meagan Aull induced the third walk of the inning to load the bases, but the inning ended with three runners stranded with a fly-out to left.
After sitting Tennessee down in the fifth, UK threatened again in the top of the sixth. Junior Rachel Riley found a hole in left to open the stanza and a single up the middle by DeMartine placed two runners aboard. UK, however, would suffer three consecutive outs to end the inning with runners still standing.
Freshman Ellen Weaver helped end the bottom of the sixth with UK's second double play of the game. Weaver, playing left field, got under a low-liner for the first out and then quickly chucked it to Jolly covering second to get the second out to end the stanza.
In a late-game comeback effort senior Megan Yocke drew an inning-opening seventh inning walk. The Wildcats, however, would leave her aboard to end the game. Over the last three innings, UK stranded six of its nine runners.
Kentucky will now await word on a potential bid for the NCAA Tournament. The selection show is set to air at 10 p.m. ET on ESPNU. UK is searching for a school-record third consecutive season.
Follow along with UK all post-season long at UKathetics.com.